ADEA State Update

Texas’ SB 4 Law Banning Sanctuary Cities Heads to Court

(Local Policy, State Policy, Department of Justice, Federal Court) Permanent link   All Posts


On June 26, the Chief United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas and former Texas state representative, Orlando Garcia, held a hearing on the constitutionality of SB 4. 

SB 4, which was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) on May 7 and goes into effect Sept. 1, prohibits local government entities and campus police from adopting certain types of policies, patterns, or practices that prohibit the enforcement of state or federal immigration law. SB 4 also penalizes officers who act on such policies with fines or jail time. Additionally, under the new law, local government entities and law enforcement officials, including college and university campus police departments, are required to comply with federal immigration laws and detainer requests. Included in the new law is a civil penalty for entities and campus police departments found in violation of the law of up to $25,500 for each day of the violation.

At issue is whether SB 4 is unconstitutional and a violation of the Supremacy Clause, the Tenth Amendment and the Fourth Amendment.  

On June 23, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a press statement and filed a Statement of Interest in the SB 4 litigation. In the press statement, the DOJ said it supports SB 4 and is committing DOJ resources to participate in the lawsuit. 

During the hearing, attorneys representing the cities and counties involved in the lawsuit argued the following:

  • SB 4 violates the Fourth Amendment protections against warrantless arrests without probable cause and raises concerns about racial profiling.
  • A provision in SB 4, which prohibits elected officials from endorsing policies that contradict SB 4, is an unconstitutional restriction of an official’s First Amendment right to free speech.

Judge Garcia did not give a timeline for when a decision on the constitutionality of SB 4 will be rendered.

On June 29, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks also held a hearing on SB 4. The hearing was related to a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in May, just hours after Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) signed SB 4 into law. The action — filed by the Texas Attorney General’s office against El Paso County, the city of Austin and other local governments — asks for the law to be declared constitutional ahead of its effective date on Sept. 1. During the hearing on June 29, attorneys for the state of Texas asked Judge Sparks to consolidate the case with the other, separate lawsuit, in San Antonio, filed by local governments against the state of Texas. This request for consolidation would essentially move the case from San Antonio to Austin, Texas. 

The Texas Attorney General’s office is arguing that the proper venue is Austin because the governor and attorney general reside there.

Judge Sparks did not give a timeline on when he would make a decision. ADEA will continue to keep you informed of any updates concerning litigation surrounding SB 4.

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